Plate XXXI, 'Mollusques et Zoophytes' from the account of Captain Nicolas Baudin's expedition 'Voyage de Decouvertes aux Terres Australes' by Francois Peron and Louis de Freycinet.
Engraved from illustrations by Charles Lesueur and Jacques Gerard Milbert, both of whom were also members of the Baudin expedition.
The illustrations of molluscs and zoophytes are titled 1. Beroe macrostamus n., 2. Medusa panopyra n., 3. Salpa vivipara n., 4. Janthira pericephala n., 5. Hyalaea australis n., 6. Porpita gigantea n. Vue en dessus : en dessous, 6a. Disque interieur en dessus, 6b. Partie grossie, 6c. Disque vu par dessous, 6d. Partie grossie 6e.
SignificanceThe finest illustrations resulting from Baudin's expedition relate to marine animals discovered during the voyage. Peron, despite earlier criticisms of his work, became recognised for the significant contributions he made to the study and organising of jellyfish.
HistoryFrancois Peron joined Baudin's expedition at the age of 25 as a trainee zoologist. By this time Peron had already served in the French army, enrolled as a medical student at the Ecole Pratique de Dissectionin Paris "an intensive education supplemented with zoology and comparative anatomy courses at the Museum national d'Histoire naturelle".
These later studies allowed him to apply for a position on Baudin's voyage as part of a 24 member civilian scientific team that included astronomers, geographers, mineralogists, botanists and zoologists.
From the outset the expedition of two vessels, the LE GEOGRAPHE and LE NATURALISTE, experienced problems involving discipline, lack of supplies and harsh conditions on board. There was a mass exodus of scientists and crew on stops throughout the voyage and constant ill health aboard.
Peron seemed to have been resilient enough to cope with problems although he clashed with Baudin. It is said that throughout it all “he diligently measured the temperature of the air and ocean every six hours for the duration of the expedition. In so doing, Peron became the first to establish a relationship between weather patterns and marine migrations, particularly those of jellyfish. As the scientific team disintegrated, he eventually took on, alone, the tasks originally assigned to the expedition's four zoologists. He persevered, carrying out risky shore going collection - trips in search of specimens (including a crocodile); devising ingenious ways to preserve them (jellyfish were "marinated" in olive oil or peppered vinegar when alcohol was not available); and fastidiously recording the conditions under which his treasures were found."
("Unidentified Floating Object", Olalquiaga, C. Cabinet Magazine Online, Issue 21, 2006).
On his return to Paris in 1804 and the death of Baudin, Peron became responsible for writing up the account of the voyage, in addition to his own follow up research. Criticism was levelled at Peron for his harsh treatment and general omission of Baudin in the account but Peron himself suffered some injustices in recognition of his own work also. On his death, his work on jellyfish was not published until nearly two cenrturies after his death when his work "Histoire generate des Meduses' was published.